Tonya Nero is targeting the top spot in the women's six-kilometre event at the North America, Central America and Caribbean Athletic Association (NACAC) Cross Country Championships, in Mandeville, Jamaica, tomorrow.
The diminutive runner created history in front of her home crowd, at the Queen's Park Savannah last year, becoming the first athlete from Trinidad and Tobago to secure a top-three finish at the Championships. She completed the course in 20 minutes, 33 seconds to claim silver, behind American Liz Costello (20:27).
Nero is hoping to go one better in Jamaica.
"I will try to go for the gold," the 24-year-old runner told the Express, yesterday. "If I don't get it, I will do my best.
"I hope to do a better time or close to the same time. (But) I don't know how the (Mandeville) course is. If there are more hills, there'll be a different time."
Nero prepared for tomorrow's NACAC 6K by competing in Sunday's Kiss T&T Half Marathon, as well as the 5K the previous day. She won both races. In the half marathon, Nero got to the finish line in one hour, 23 minutes, 42 seconds--more than eight minutes outside her 1:15:13 national record.
She explained that Sunday's race was a training run, ahead of her NACAC title bid.
"I didn't put out my all. I tried to do it as a steady-speed long run. I did the 5K, and the half (marathon) was my long run for the week. I also went to Tobago last week and yesterday (Wednesday) to train on the cross country course at Mt Irvine."
Nero is the only female athlete on a nine-member team selected to represent T&T in Jamaica. The reigning national women's cross country champion said it will be tough to compete against runners from other countries who will have the benefit of working with teammates during the race.
"It is a challenge running against teams... higher level competition. I have to prepare my mind."
Nero said that while she needs to be aware of the team tactics employed by her rivals, she plans to run her own race.
"I'll look at how they run, but at the same time do my own thing."
Denzel Ramirez, the 2012 national men's cross country champion, is expected to lead the charge for T&T in tomorrow's NACAC Championship men's 8K. Matthew Hagley, Richard Jones and Jules La Rode are the other members of the T&T men's team.
And in the junior men's 6K, T&T will be represented by Akeem Marshall, 2012 Carifta Games boys' under-20 800 metres gold medallist Mark London, Ashton Gill and Romario Ricardo Rodrigues.
Team T&T will leave for Jamaica today and return home on Sunday. Juleus Smart will accompany the athletes as coach, while Dawn Washington is the manager, and Brent Elder the massage therapist.
• Men's 8K—Denzel Ramirez, Matthew Hagley, Richard Jones, Jules La Rode
• Women's 6K—Tonya Nero
• Junior Men's 6K—Akeem Marshall, Mark London, Ashton Gill, Romario Ricardo Rodrigues
• Officials—Dawn Washington (manager), Juleus Smart (coach), Brent Elder (massage therapist)